Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tales from the Trenches: When others cannot speak

Folks, I just sent a letter to probably 25 people about our new school building project. Because I mentioned being A Voice for Many before, here it is:

School Board and Senior Staff Members:

I am writing to you in regard to the new building project slated for H- Elementary. We’ve been meeting for months regarding planning, size and so forth. From the very first community meeting, we’ve been unsuccessful in changing the projection of enrollment that the new building space is being based on.

Currently, our school enrollment is 523 students. The projections suggest 450 students for enrollment for the 2016 school year. Even on the -- Schools website, average enrollment is listed at 558.

Our building was built in 1957. In 1961, only 4 years after construction, an addition was built. Again in 1965, another addition was built. In 2002, 2 modular classrooms were placed on the school grounds. In the fall of 2009, another modular classroom was brought in. Enrollment for the last 20 years has not dropped below 500 students. As you can see, H- Elementary is a school that has grown in the past and continues to do so.

The building plan last presented remained at one less classroom than what we presently have. The 2010-2011 school year may require the addition of another Kindergarten classroom. At present, just the Kindergarten classrooms alone stand with a ratio of 23:1. [School] standards are 18:1.

In October 2010, we are anticipating another influx of children from the -- Homes project. This project is slated to be complete and ready to have residents move in at that time. The -- Homes project is a 34 town home mixed-family community. Presently, we do not have any type of enrollment projection for this project. If we gain even just 30 children from this new housing project, that will put us at approximately 553 students that will be attending H- Elementary this fall. Clearly, that over-runs the new building numbers by 103 children. That’s an awful lot of extra bodies to have to “make do” in a brand new building with.

We are very thankful to be getting a new building. We think that this is a wonderful opportunity to take our already excellent school and make it even better. We believe in being good stewards of the monies and opportunities that are afforded to us with this project. However, we fear that if the project isn’t made big enough to contain our current enrollment, we will be a new building with modulars outside once again.

Residency requirements have been lifted. Economic issues have affected everyone of every class. However, -- residents aren’t people quick to leave. -- residents tend to be lifers. They grow up here, they buy houses here and if they move, they stay within the -- school cluster. While my husband and I grew up in -- and in --, we purposely purchased a home in -- because of the close-knit community, our beautiful and quiet dead end street and the schools. We knew that we wanted to send our child to the -- school cluster.

Where will we put all the children? The idea has been put out there to build H- as a “super school.” The idea is to make H- for 600 children. That way, we could re-district within the -- Cluster ONLY and take in more students at H-, so that we may relieve the overload from the other schools within our cluster. To re-district -- school students into other -- clusters would only anger those who purchased their home in -- specifically so that they could have their children attend school here. That would only drive residents away. None of us want that.

We believe in H- Elementary. Our daughter couldn’t receive a better education anywhere. [Specific details removed.] We’ve spent the year reading for the 100 book challenge. The Kindergarten teachers work together to put on plays, do science projects together and they even did a social studies passport adventure this past December where children learned about winter/holiday customs around the world. Though their space is small, they make the most of it and truly make learning fun.

The strides that my child has made in learning at H- Elementary this year just stun my husband and me. Never in a million years could we imagine that a child could learn so much in just Kindergarten.

I am a very involved parent. I am a member of the PTA and volunteer at H- at least once a week. All of the children in my daughter’s class know me. They see me so often. The children throughout the school know me, too. I’m the “100 book challenge board lady.” I’ve also been to every single new building meeting. I believe that it is very important to be involved in my child’s education.

I ask that you please reconsider the specified size for our new building. Clearly, 450 is not big enough. Please help us to be able to create a learning environment that is not crammed elbow to elbow and ear lobe to ear lobe. Help us to continue to be able to offer the excellent education that H- Elementary is so well known for.


Amy --

cc: [Our local newspaper]
Deputy Mayor

A prayer request:
My friend Heather's husband, Ryan, was taken in for exploratory surgery today where on the second trip around his abdomen, they found that he had a burst appendix. Though several rare things could happen, their biggest concern at this point is the development of an abscess. Ryan will be in the hospital for 5-10 days and will be off work for an unspecified period of time. Though he is "not out of the woods yet" (in the words of the doctor), they expect a full recovery. It will be a very slow process, though. They have three boys ages 3, 6 and 8. Heather's parents were in town to visit when she ended up having to take Ryan in, and Ryan's father flew in this afternoon from SC to be with all of them. He and Heather will be flip flopping hospital and home so as to keep someone with Ryan at all times at this time. When Ryan's dad returns, Heather's mother will come back. (Heather's parents live about an hour and a half - 2 hours away.) When I was dropping dinner off for tomorrow, Ryan called to tell the boys goodnight. I was amazed that he could do that since he just had major surgery. He was able to take his walk up and down the hall, as requested by the doctor, and was hoping for bow*el sounds to start soon. The sooner he gets things up and running, the sooner he'll be able to return home.

Smiles in my day:
- K- having Hubs call me at work so that she could cry and cry at Hubs dismantling the old swing set. I know it sounds weird, but I was glad that she called so that I could tell her that her dad was just taking it down because it had become unsafe. It was tough for her at first, but she pulled around.
- Hubs was across the street talking to the "lawn" neighbors when I got home. I think that the boys kind of felt like heels after they found out how busy Hubs had been. By the way, Hubs mowed the lawn today, making the neighbors even more happy!
- Getting the school letter sent out.
- The teachers are cooking all of us PTA moms breakfast tomorrow to thank us for all of our hard work throughout the year. How nice!


Rach said...

Well done, Amy! :o) Jessie is in the midst of a kindergarten nightmare--30 kids/class with only a part-time assistant. It seems they didn't plan well for growth...They already have six kindergartens and will hire a seventh if necessary but they're still looking at classes of 25-30. UGH!

Bailey's Leaf said...

Seems as though the power of a letter has sent people into a state of concern. They are looking again at projection numbers and have actually taken my letter seriously.


Rach said...

Hallelujah!! :o)